Nigerian parliament recognises VP as acting leader

Nigeria’s parliament recognised Vice President Goodluck Jonathan as acting head of state on Tuesday in the absence of the African oil producer’s ailing president.

But the move takes Nigeria into uncharted political territory and does not end the uncertainty over who rules Africa’s most populous nation since President Umaru Yar’Adua was hospitalised in Saudi Arabia in November.

Motions backed by both chambers of parliament enable Jonathan to pass legislation and act as commander of the armed forces until Yar’Adua declares he is fit enough to resume his duties.

But the constitution makes no provision for parliament to take such a step, saying the president must make a written declaration before such a transfer of powers can take place.

Yar’Adua has been receiving treatment for a heart condition for more than two months and his failure to formally hand over to Jonathan has risked bringing government business to a halt.

The Nigerian ambassador in Saudi Arabia, who has given occasional updates on Yar’Adua’s health, could not immediately be reached to comment on parliament’s move.

“This foray into uncharted waters will lead to questions as to its constitutional legality,” said Kayode Akindele, a director at Lagos-based financial advisory firm Greengate Strategic Partners.

“It is now up to the presidency and cabinet in their meeting tomorrow to align with this gathering political consensus. The vice president has to now step out of the shadows and assume the mantle of leadership in a very deliberate fashion.”



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